Jeramey Jannene

New Front Door for Lakefront

Dramatic plan moves freeway ramps and creates a grand boulevard that connects downtown and the lakefront.

By - Mar 11th, 2013 12:38 pm
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A once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape Milwaukee’s lakefront was afforded with the Hoan Bridge scheduled for a $278 million rebuild in 2014.  That set the stage for this morning’s press conference, where Governor Scott Walker, Mayor Tom Barrett, County Executive Chris Abele, Representative Jon Richards, and philanthropist Michael Cudahy unveiled a plan to relocate two Interstate 794 ramps, convert a portion of E. Clybourn St. into a boulevard, extend Lincoln Memorial Drive to the Historic Third Ward, and add a pedestrian bridge. As part of the reconfiguration, the City will gain approximately three new acres of land for development (south of E. Clybourn St, between Van Buren St. and Lincoln Memorial Dr.), as well as seeing the value increase on a number of area parcels.

The plan will be paid for with a combination of state and city funds. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) will pay for the ramps, estimated to cost $16 million. The city will pay for the streets and pedestrian bridges by leveraging the proposed tax-incremental financing district for Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.’s new building to be located on the northern edge of the area.

The proposed pedestrian bridge would connect Rick Barrett‘s proposed The Couture apartments and hotel high-rise with the festival grounds, Discovery World and other amenities across Lincoln Memorial Drive. The proposed development site is currently occupied by the Downtown Transit Center, which would be relocated to be near the Milwaukee Intermodal Station. The transit center is currently used primarily as a bus storage facility, and is not a major bus stop for riders.

Included in the renderings is a proposed reconfiguration of the intersection of Lincoln Memorial Dr. and E. Michigan St. The renderings show the removal of the high-speed turn lanes that greatly expand the intersection and make it difficult for pedestrians to access the lakefront from O’Donnell Park. I had written about the need for this change and others in a 2011 article. Also shown is Irgens Development’s proposed 833 East office tower located on E. Michigan Street.

Lakefront Gateway

The Lakefront Gateway from the City’s 2010 Downtown Plan. See more in the gallery below.

The impetus for the change stems from two sources, Milwaukee’s 2010 Downtown Plan, which included the Lakefront Gateway as a catalytic project and Milwaukee County’s Long-Range Lakefront Planning Committee, which produced a number of recommendations for improvements on the section of Milwaukee’s lakefront near downtown including adding a bicycle/pedestrian lane to the Hoan Bridge. WisDOT already has decided against adding a bicycle lane to the bridge, following a study that may have included artificially inflated numbers.

The reconfiguration does not match exactly what was proposed in the Downtown Plan and by the Lakefront Planning Committee, as both proposals called for the ramps to be moved further west to open up more land for development. Alas, it appears idealistic planning met the political arena head on, and a compromise was found.

The reconfiguration will allow the City of Milwaukee to better realize the value of land adjacent to the lakefront, without having to sacrifice any of the treasured lakefront parkland that sets Milwaukee apart from many other cities. The change will add to the city’s tax base both on the edge of downtown and the Historic Third Ward, make it easier for pedestrians to cross between the lakefront and downtown, and ease motorized vehicle access to many lakefront amenities and the Historic Third Ward.

The galleries below include illustrations of the current environment, the proposed changes from the 2010 Downtown Plan, renderings from the Long-Range Lakefront Planning Committee, and the designs unveiled today.

Gallery of Negotiated Changes

Gallery of Long-Range Lakefront Planning Committee Recommendations

City of Milwaukee 2010 Downtown Plan – Lakefront Gateway

Categories: Politics, Real Estate

11 thoughts on “New Front Door for Lakefront”

  1. El Sol says:

    Love the concept for the Lakefront. This may be the most desirable commercial location in Wisconsin. The rents in this area are going to be astronomical for Milwaukee standards. The county and city governments have to be smart about maximizing the use of this small but extremely valuable property. Tom Barrett should not insist on any one of his pet projects here, unless it’s asked for. The less Tom Barrett gets to decide about this the better…this guy should be managing a Chili’s.

  2. Tyrell Track Master says:

    Amazing. I can’t believe this is actually coming together and the politics actually seem to agree.

    It’s not as great as the original (as you point out), but man, this is a very good start. Let’s get it rolling before someone screws it up.

  3. Terrence Schaefer says:

    Hey, this is pretty exciting! Maybe not perfect, but it shows a vision that’s been sadly lacking in Milwaukee for many years. Our lakefront is a jewel we need to cultivate and promote within the context of establishing Milwaukee as a forward-thinking city in the region and in the nation. Glad to see this will go ahead.

  4. Keith Prochnow says:

    Jon Richards reminded me yesterday that this great project grew out of an idea floated by Sue Black. Let’s give some credit.

  5. While Sue Black was certainly instrumental, the idea originated (in written form) in the City’s 2010 Downtown Plan first. You could go further back and credit John Norquist and company for proposing to tear down 794 and convert it to a boulevard east of the river as the inspiration for the idea.

  6. Yance says:

    A few critiques. The intersection at St. Paul & Lincoln Memorial should be looked at as a roundabout. Keep the pedestrian crossings at Clybourn where it is more useful and at the bridge. This design makes pedestrian crossings at St. Paul redundant.

    The plan should also re-look at the intersections at Harbor Drive and St. Paul. That is a tangled mess of an intersection that is not efficient or friendly to bikes and peds. The bike/ped path suddenly merges into the Discovery World garage driveway. Kind of a sloppy, afterthought of a design.

  7. Dave Reid says:

    @Yance, St. Paul? I’m not following?

  8. Yance says:

    Sorry, Michigan Street.

  9. Id like to ride the streetcar to and from these new points of interest as well as the new bridge to the South side (where I live) – Im proud that there are collaborative efforts with these needed growth changes to our Lakefront and our beautiful city of Milwaukee.

  10. Jerry Braden says:

    This whole project is a win win for everyone, and there are several names that should share the credit in trying to grow this city. I agree that mayor Barrette needs to retire; hopefully a true leader will step up and help this city not to become a Cleveland and Detroit. New friends from Cleveland moved here recently and they have assured us that DT Milw. is like nite and day from DT Cleveland, when after working hours, that area dies. No one lives there, so they say. The point is we still have the ability to avoid all their pitfalls. Imagine the 30 story NWM Bldg. becoming 40-50 stories by design, which is still a possibility, thanks to the State giving them a larger Tax incentive should thy opt to build something over 1 million Sq. Ft ! Wow, that would be Super !

  11. Kevin Keck says:

    The Gateway project seems like a sad Hail Mary to me. Why would Milwaukee allow a roadway plan that would encourage more thru traffic on Lincoln Memorial Drive and the Lakefront. Does the travel demand model indicate that this new roadway will have traffic volumes and speeds like those on North Water Street at St. Paul or more like those on Bluemound Road at Moorland? Increasing the amount office space, the length of the crosswalks and the amount of thru traffic is not a sound way to attract non-work related activity to this area.

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